Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year of the Donald

I suppose it could have been worse.  Trump could have set the White House on fire or got us in a war with North Korea.  Instead, we pretty much had to put up with his bluster all year.  Not even his ban on transgenders in the military was able to make it through the courts, and in the new year transgenders will once again be able to enlist in the armed forces.

As Presidents go, Trump has already placed himself squarely at the bottom with his petulant behavior and his inability to stay focused on any one issue.  It reached a point where Congressional Republicans wanted Trump to keep his distance given his outbursts when any Republican broke ranks.  It was better that he go play golf rather than try to solicit votes, although he did try to do that with Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul on the golf course.  Not that he had to make much effort with Lindsey Antebellum, or even Little Rand for that matter.  Ultimately, the Donald got his way with Senate Republicans, even if they only gave him one-third of the "Cut, Cut, Cut" tax bill he wanted.  No matter, he blew it up to $5.5 trillion in his White House List of Accomplishments.

Now the President is touting a new infrastructure bill.  No one is sure how this will work.  It initially started out as a trillion dollar pipe dream, but now he wants big business to ante up most of the money.  I suppose this is payback for all the tax cuts they will get in the New Year.

He lashed out at amazon once again, saying the USPS charges them too little for shipping, oblivious to the fact that the tax bill he signed gives companies like amazon nearly $5 billion in tax breaks, almost enough to cover the USPS debt.  It is politically motivated, as Jeff Bezos, the amazon guy, also owns the Washington Post, which has posted some unsavory stories on the Donald the past year that really got his goat.

At one time Jeff Bezos was on Trump's American Technology Council, but when the President pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Bezos like many of the others on this panel left.  Not that they had accomplished anything as I think they held only one tech summit.  These are the guys who were supposed to be advising Trump on how to improve infrastructure in this country.

In his 11+ months in office, Trump has unleashed one of the greatest "brain drains" in government.  Not only was he forced to disband his tech council after the remainder threatened to walk out on him over his Charlottesville remarks, but the censorship he has imposed on the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency have resulted in many top scientists leaving these federal agencies.  In turn, he tries to replace them with persons like these.  Instead of the "Best and the Brightest" we now have "Dumb and Dumber."

Even faithful supporters like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson constantly find themselves under fire from the President.  Both have had to endure twitter assaults during the year, but remain loyal to Trump like one would a mafia don who is in the late stages of dementia.  Our last hope of sanity in the White House, former Gen. John Kelly, similarly chose fealty when defending the President's outrageous remarks to a war widow, turning the blame on a Florida Congresswoman who was privy to the call.  Still, Rex and Jeff tried their best to carry out the duties of their office, unlike their Commander-in-Chief, who continually undermined their efforts throughout year one.

While he hasn't let go of any cabinet members yet, Trump has virtually rebuilt his office staff.  The first to go was former Gen. Michael Flynn, who apparently lied to VP Mike Pence about his communications with Russia.  Just the same, the Donald heaped praise on a man who had been one of his most loyal supporters during the campaign, and was installed as Director of Homeland Security despite warnings from the Dept. of Justice, including Jeff Sessions himself.  Trump went with Jared on this one and paid the price.  He had to let go of Flynn less than a month into his term.

Sean Spicer never seemed comfortable in his role of Press Security, and when he became the brunt of SNL jokes you knew his time would soon be up.  Still, it was kind of sad to see Spicy go.  Like others who have come and gone in the White House, Sean is enjoying an afterlife as frequent talk show guest, as hosts hope he might have some juicy stories to tell about his former boss.  However, no one has yet to say much except the evil Dr. Bannon, who feels "Javanka" has far too much influence on the President.

This has always been a family affair for Donald Trump.  He pretty much made Jared his surrogate despite the young real estate developer's many shortcomings, and has gleefully promoted Ivanka throughout the year, like a good father would.  As John Oliver pointed out in one of his segments, neither have any qualifications for the enormous burden they have taken on in their father's White House.   Among Jared's many other overwhelming jobs has been tasked to forge a peace deal between Israel an Palestine, something that has eluded every presidential administration since Harry S. Truman.  It doesn't seem Jared has convinced Palestinians of his abilities to broker a deal.  And, we all feared the nepotism that might ensue if Hillary had been elected President.

Trump is trying to run the White House like he does his far-flung enterprises.  He invests way too much authority in his children, while driving businesses into the ground because he has no real interest in them other than collecting them as part of his portfolio.  "President" is simply the latest "accomplishment" he can add to his brief case.

He has shown no real interest in the job since the transition period, which he seemed to enjoy since he had no real responsibilities other than entertaining potential cabinet members and staffers.  Anyone who was anyone came through the revolving doors of Trump Tower during those two and a half months, including Al Gore an Leo DiCaprio who hoped they might turn Donald's ear on the environment.  In the end, Trump rewarded his cronies rather than seek a balanced administration, and so we pay the price.

Unfortunately, we can't turn back time, but we can put the pressure on Congress to hold the President accountable for what has been a very toxic administration, in which he has dragged the American flag into the mud.  Outside of Bibi Netanyahu in Israel you will find few world leaders that have any respect for him.  Countries are quickly learning how to work around the US, including Russia, which had hoped to forge a new relationship in the wake of Trump's shocking victory, which many still believe the Kremlin had a role in.

Trump seems content to ride out Robert Mueller's investigation, even as the focus turns to Jared and Donald, Jr.  He has noted there is nothing illegal about collusion, but when it crosses the line into treason that's another story.  We can only wait and see if Mueller comes up with the goods on the Trump family connections with Russia.

Meanwhile, we also hope Trump doesn't get us into a war we will sorely regret.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Trump Fatigue

Trump as Sisyphus rolling a golf ball up a hill.

Roy Moore's last ditch challenge to the Alabama special election was rejected and Doug Jones declared the winner in the hotly contested Senate race.  Few imagined a Democrat could take a Deep South seat, but you combine a notoriously bad candidate with what appears to be fading support of Trump, who backed Moore, you get Trump Fatigue.  Many Americans, including those in the Deep South, have had their fill of our Reality Show President and his reality show politics.

Nevertheless, we see our president gloating over his many accomplishments on twitter while he used a cargo truck to disguise him playing golf for the 87th time this year.  He spent virtually one-quarter of his first year on the golf course.  The most of any president since Eisenhower, who averaged 100 rounds per year.  Trump might still catch Ike, as he has a month left in his first year with plenty of vacation time on his hands.

This from a President who said during his campaign that he would have no time to play golf, while chastising Pres. Obama for the numerous times he played golf  -- 306 to be exact over an eight year period.  At Donald's rate, he should surpass Barry's record early in his fourth year, assuming he lasts that long.

We can go through Trump's "3800 word screed" listing his "rookie year" accomplishments and find numerous false claims.  The one that jumps out is ballooning the $1.5 trillion tax cut package Congress approved into $5.5 trillion, and claiming that 60% will go to middle class families.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He also boasts of removing "Obamacare's burdensome individual mandate," which he credits for boosting GDP.  It doesn't matter that the greater portion of the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" won't take effect until 2019, including the repeal of the health insurance mandate.  The screed goes onto list all the jobs created during his first year, $5 trillion in wealth added to the economy, and numerous other boasts that should more duly be ascribed to his predecessor, as the economy was booming before he stepped into office this past January.

This is quintessential Trumpian rhetoric.  He takes over a company and claims credit for its success without so much as having to lift a finger.  Fact of the matter is that many of the executive orders he signed and the tax cuts package he approved at the end of the year will have an adverse effect on the economy in the coming months, as it begins to weaken.  The boost in the housing market should be a warning sign, not a reason to gloat, as we went through this once before and it wasn't pretty.

Developers have a tendency to overbuild when times are good, flooding the housing market with new units only to have a hard time selling them.  Then come the too-good-to-be-true mortgage rates to try to sucker first-time home-buyers.  Donald should know this as he was involved in many shady real estate deals that left investors with little to hold onto when the dust settled.  Many of these projects never got off the ground, like this one in Tampa.  No matter for a wheeler-dealer like Trump, who had little invested in the project other than his name.

For whatever reason, voters ignored all these warning signs last November and flipped the switch for Trump anyway.  I suppose they thought the real estate developer and reality show star would become more humble once he understood the magnitude of the office, but obviously that hasn't happened.  Trump still revels in the same childish behavior that drew mean-spirited laughs during the campaign, but now only serves as a continual embarrassment as President.

At 71, it was wishful thinking to imagine him "growing up."  Trump is a man-child, or more appropriately a man-toddler.  His emotional and intellectual development appears to have peaked at 4 years old, judging by the way he has had his daily briefings reduced to bullet points to make it easier for him to glance over and usually dismiss out of hand.  Instead, he relies on Fox and Friends and other conservative news outlets to inform him on subjects, often retweeting the conservative talking points on his personal twitter account, without bothering to check their veracity.

Former General John Kelly has done a very poor job of reining Trump in, but the Chief of Staff claims it is not his job to watch over the President like a "church lady."  Instead, Mr. Kelly tries to limit those who come in contact with Donald, hoping this will allow the President to focus on his job.  He should be monitoring the President's internet usage.

As a result, we get this constant stream of tweets, with the news media pouring over virtually every one in turn.  Trump has managed to bemuse and anger just about everybody, becoming more surly as his approval ratings dip, in turn venting his rage on "fake news."  CNN seems to relish this ongoing battle with Trump, if for no other reason than its viewing audience has risen since the President made the cable news network the brunt of his attack.

Little wonder people are tired of Trump, whether they like him or not, and this certainly played out in Virginia and Alabama, whether the President is willing to admit it or not.  Republicans virtually lost control of the Virginia House of Delegates, with the House majority coming down to one seat.  As it is, the Democrats gained no less than 15 seats this year.

Whether politically motivated or not, the accusations against Roy Moore revealed a deeply flawed candidate, much like Trump himself, that most Alabamans weren't willing to accept.  Unlike the 2016 general election, there is no electoral college and Moore is being forced to accept the popular vote whether he likes it or not.

It still is worth noting that Trump was elected based on the electoral votes of three close Midwest states, which were seen as part of Hillary's "blue wall."  He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, but that's the way our system works.  A voter in California has far less electoral clout than one in Alaska or Wyoming, and so we ended up with Donald J. Trump.

I think many who voted for him were just as surprised by the results as was CNN, which appeared rather somber election night, rather than reveling in all the red states turning blue as John and Wolf had done in the mid term elections of 2010 and 2014.  John King almost seemed to be looking for a way for Hillary to win Pennsylvania as the Philadelphia vote was slow to roll in.

If it is any consolation, CNN will probably delight in all the red states turning blue in the 2018 midterm elections, as all signs point to a major turnover in Congress.  Trump will then find himself virtually alone in Washington, as he went out of his way to alienate "Chuck and Nancy,"  making him look more a fool than Congressional Democratic leaders Schumer and Pelosi, who chose not to attend his WH photo op, after he belittled them on twitter.

So, Mr. President, enjoy the White House while you can.  2018 promises to be a very rough year for you.  If nothing else, you can retreat to the golf course or one of your many properties to avoid the "fake news" of your diminishing political stature.  People are exhausted from you.  It was one thing to tune in to you from time to time on television, quite another to have to endure your petulant rants on a daily basis.  Not even Alabama wants you anymore, and I imagine the same is true of Kentucky.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Jackson Magnolia

As Magnolia trees go, the Jackson Magnolia has lived a long life, nearly 200 years, but as with any venerable tree it is hard to see it go.  Not surprising the decision to cut back the tree significantly is being met with some indignation, especially since the burden of the decision fell on the Trump White House.  It remains to be seen what will be left of the tree.

Andrew Jackson had planted the tree back in 1829, in memory of his late wife, Rachel, who died shortly after he was elected President.  He took a seedling from his farm in Tennessee and had it brought to the White House.  Probably one of the few warm stories surrounding "Old Hickory."  The tree has literally spanned 38 succeeding presidencies and is immortalized on the $20 bill along with Jackson himself.

You might recall that Jackson was scheduled to be scrubbed from the $20 bill and replaced by Harriet Tubman, but like many of former President Obama's executive orders, this one is in danger of being rolled back by Trump, who has a special affinity for Andrew Jackson, as well as an overwhelming disdain for Barack Obama.

It seems it is this special affinity that led Trump, or rather his wife in this case, to retain a remnant of the Magnolia Grandiflora with the hope that it will regain some of its former glory.  More likely, the tree will be replaced by one of the seedlings taken from the Jackson Magnolia that have been secretly cultivated in a greenhouse-like location nearby.  All though, I don't think a seedling can grow to 8-10 feet in a matter of months.  As you read down the linked CNN article, you find Michelle Obama began this project in 2009.  Rest assured, Trump will give full credit to his wife.

Melania has tried to display her horticultural skills during the year, but was met mostly with derision given her designer clothes.  At least she has carried on one tradition left from the Obama administration, which is more than can be said for her husband.

As for Andrew Jackson, probably best to remember him as a tree.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Palestine Problem

Back in the 70s, my sister wrote a book on the situation in Palestine.  The PLO was still regarded as a terrorist organization, so there was little attempt to arbitrate a settlement after Israel annexed the Palestinian territories in 1967.  It wasn't until the 1991 Madrid Conference that the US and Israel entered into reluctant talks regarding Palestine, which ultimately led to the PLO recognizing Israel's "right to exist."  A new Palestinian Authority was established with its capital in Ramallah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, to avoid conflict with Israel, which had established its knesset in Jerusalem.

No foreign country recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.  Instead, they located their embassies in Tel Aviv, which became the de facto capital of Israel.  All that changed on December 6, when Donald Trump formally stated that the US would be moving its embassy to the disputed city.  The US, like several other countries, had consulates-general in Jerusalem to ease diplomatic relations with Israel without coming into direct conflict with the 1947 UN resolution, which declared the city a "corpus separatum" under international control.

Of course, the UN has little jurisdiction over Jerusalem.  The city falls under Israeli control.  The best the UN has been able to do is help accommodate Palestinian interests in the city, which still amount to about 35% of the population.  As a result, we have East and West Jerusalem.

None of this seems to matter much as far Donald Trump is concerned.  He was looking for some juicy headline at the end of the year, as his "cuts, cuts, cuts" bill appeared to be in jeopardy.  He got it, and the UN duly responded with a resolution demanding he revoke his executive order.  In turn, Nikki Haley, our UN ambassador, issued a blistering condemnation of the UN resolution, in which she said the US will slash its share of UN funding by 25 per cent.  The most amusing part is Ms. Nikki chastising the UN for its "budgetary excesses," when the US hasn't balanced a budget in decades and carries a national debt in excess of $20 trillion.  Like the decision to pull out of UNESCO earlier this year, this is simply in response to the UN "favoring" Palestine over Israel.

The UN finds itself in a similar quandary to the League of Nations between the World Wars.  Its continued existence largely remains dependent on big nations, usually at the expense of small nations, or in this case a disputed territory that the US tried desperately to push under the rug after failing to negotiate a settlement between Israel and Palestine back in 1999.

The war in Iraq was largely designed to shift attention away from Israel.  This after President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon had bullied the Palestinian Authority into selecting a new leader, since they both refused to negotiate with a "known terrorist," Yasser Arafat.  While American forces waged battles against Iraqi insurgents, Israel literally walled off Palestine, hoping it would disappear from international attention.  But The Question of Palestine remained.

Our dear President may have unwittingly brought the issue back into the forefront with his latest declarations.  The UN hasn't been this outspoken on Palestine in a long time, but now there seems to be some genuine fervor to reopen discussions on a two-state solution despite the difficulties of piecing together a nation from the tattered remains of the 1947 Palestinian territory.

How effective the UN will be in such negotiations remains to be seen, which I suppose is why Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, is currently in negotiations with France to act as mediator, flatly refusing to work with the United States after Trump's December 6 statement.  Not surprisingly, Palestinians are now pushing to make East Jerusalem the capital of its future state.

In fairness to Trump, Congress had long ago penned an Jerusalem Embassy Act, which no president had acted upon until now.  President Bush toyed with the idea early in his tenure, but dropped it when he got bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq.  No sense further inflaming the Muslim world.

No one thought much about this act since then, but I guess Jared, our so-called special envoy to Israel, or someone else close to the president gave him a reminder, and here we are adding fuel to the fire in a region still very much in conflict.  Virtually every Muslim country has spoken out against the act, including Saudi Arabia, which thought it had gained Trump's ear with the lavish celebration they gave him earlier this year.  But, it seems Trump has long forgotten whatever advice King Abdullah gave him.

It remains to be seen if this move comes to pass anymore than the wall along the Mexico border.  All Trump has done is give Congressional Republicans one more contentious issue to defend in what promises to be very bitter midterm elections.  But, this seems to be the way our flamboyant president operates.  He relishes conflict, thinking he can somehow gain the upper hand in these situations, like he did on The Apprentice.  He runs the White House as he did his reality show.  Whatever blood comes out of it, he will wipe on someone else's hands.

One can only hope that this decision not only undermines what little is left of Trump's credibility as a world leader, but that of Bibi Netanyahu, who barely survived the last election cycle in Israel.  As for Palestinians, they have had to deal with oppressive Israeli rule for 50 years.  They will survive Bibi and Donald.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, America

If we are lucky, this will be our first and last Christmas under Trump.  He has done about all he can do to divide this holiday season by rekindling the faux "War on Christmas," and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, knowing full well the protests he would inspire, not least of all a universal rebuke by the United Nations.   No matter, the Trump band plays on.

He and his rowdy right-wing friends are doing their best to turn this holiday season into a family feud.  It will be pretty hard not to avoid Trump at the Christmas table, as he has put himself front and center this holiday season, gloating over his first major "legislative victory."  If that weren't enough, he managed to get Congress to go along with his "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy in the Arctic, formally approving his earlier executive order to open up the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil companies.  It was a busy December.

I guess it doesn't matter how unpopular these legislative victories are.  Congressional Republicans were determined to pay back their political benefactors, freezing Democrats out of the legislative process on all votes.  Even the so-called conscientious Republicans who voted against the "skinny repeal" earlier this year, went along with the tax bill that cut the mandates for the Affordable Care Act, in an attempt to balance the massive tax cuts that will make any future health care legislature difficult to finance.

Republicans probably know the gig is up and are looking to plunder the budget for whatever they can get while they are still in power.  This certainly appeared to be the case with Bob Corker, an adamant opponent of the tax bill until provisions were added that favored his personal interests -- the so-called "Corker Kickback."  It now seems "Liddle Bob" is back in Trump's good graces with Ivanka doing her best to defend his reversal.

It's not like they needed his vote, but apparently Susan Collins felt she had been duped and there were some worries the GOP would not get the votes it needed to pass the revised tax bill after it returned from the House.

Lost in all this merriment is that Trump originally asked for $6 trillion in tax cuts.  His financial team of Mnuchin and Mulvaney whittled it down to $4.5 trillion, using some phony GDP projections to claim the unprecedented tax cuts would pay for itself.  In the end, the Trump White House only got $1.5 trillion, which isn't even as much as the Bush tax cuts of 2002-2009, which came to about $1.8 trillion.  This has to hurt a little because Trump is not one to settle for second best.

At the end of the year, all the Republicans were back on the same page.  It seems the big upset in Alabama cowed "mavericks" like McCain and Murkowski into submission as they realized their seats are now in jeopardy.  If you can't win a special election in the Deep South, no matter how bad your candidate, your goose is cooked.  Republicans now try desperately to salvage what remains of a horrible legislative year by speeding bills through Congress before Doug Jones comes into office early next year, as their margin of error just became one less.

Not surprising that Trump rekindles the "War on Christmas," but this has always been a right-wing gimmick meant to placate its most conservative audience.  It does little to disguise the fact most Americans feel they have been fleeced by this tax bill.  It has received almost universal condemnation.  It's only saving grace is that much of it won't take effect until after the midterms, but it is doubtful that will save their hides in what promises to be a very rowdy election cycle.  After all, Republicans similarly used the Affordable Care Act bill to tar and feather the Democrats in the 2010 midterms, when they took back the House, although the health care act didn't take effect until four years later.

What goes around comes around, and once again the Republicans have fallen victim of their own dirty tactics.  They have proven very good at undermining legislation, but not so good at proposing any meaningful legislation of their own.  One would like to think the American public has wised up a little, given what we saw in Alabama, which turned out to be the best Christmas gift of all.  If 2017 taught us anything it is that we can never take anything for granted.

This holiday season will hopefully be a time to ponder the future.  If we want good governance, we have to elect leaders capable of governing, not reality show presidents and weak-kneed legislators who prostrate themselves before their corporate sponsors.  The GOP has proven time and time again it is incapable of leading.  It thrives only as an opposition party.  We can only hope we have seen the last of the "Trump Effect."

Sunday, December 3, 2017


or "Moscow Muellers" anyone?

While the late night passage of the Senate tax bill has garnered the most attention, perhaps the most telling event this past week was the guilty plea by Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI.  The White House and Congressional Republicans have tried their best to push this unsavory bit of news under the carpet so that they can bask in the glory of their first major legislative victory of the year, but this is the type of story that is going to grow in the succeeding months and there really is nothing they can do to stop it.

For Hillarycrats the Flynn plea has to provide a small measure of comfort, as he was the one chanting "Lock Her Up!" at the Republican Convention two summers ago.  It seems Flynn will avoid jail time for the testimony he is giving on his relationship with Russian officials. This doesn't look good for the Trump administration, which the former general was an integral part of.  In particular, it doesn't look good for Jared Kushner, who was perhaps Flynn's biggest champion.  It also doesn't look good for Donnie, Jr.

The major questions are: how much "Mogul" was aware of all these backdoor negotiations, and why was the Trump administration so anxious to appease Russia?  Mueller apparently now has access to Trump's financial records dating back decades to the original Trump Tower, with a long paper trail of real estate deals involving dubious Russian buyers.  It seems the Donald liked to Party like an Oligarch, even before Putin came to power.  This of course would have made him an easy target, as James Clapper pointed out at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, Trump tries to play "smart," claiming he was well aware of Flynn's lies at the time of his firing.  He should have been, since he had been warned by Sally Yates that Flynn was a security risk.  But, this doesn't explain why he took Flynn on in this capacity to begin with since he had previously been warned by the Obama administration during the transition period.  So, he either chose to chuck all this information aside as worthless intel, or Flynn was a valuable go-between the Trump team and the Kremlin, which had been cultivating the disgruntled former general for quite sometime, and invited him to a high profile dinner with Putin in December, 2015, on the eve of the US election year.

My guess is these connections are also intertwined with Kushner's New York Observer, Breitbart, and other conservative outlets that funneled RT (Russia Today) stories through their websites.  What seems to have developed in 2016 is an elaborate set of ties between Russian and American conservative "news" sites allowing for the dissemination of "truthy" articles aimed at convincing fence-sitting conservatives and moderates that Trump was their man.

This was an active orchestration of news stories, not just happenstance, as the editors of these online news journals would like us to believe.  It still goes on today, as we see Trump reference not one but three articles from a far-right fringe group in Britain on his twitter feed, leading to a stern rebuke from Theresa May.  This was apparently meant to stir dissent over the deal the British Conservative government is trying to reach with the EU over Brexit.  Seems Brexiteers aren't happy about the 50 billion pound divorce settlement.  They would prefer no deal at all.

Flynn can shed a lot of light on all these connections, as he would have been a major part of it, given his close ties with the Kremlin.  In fact, his own son helped spread some of these stories, like the infamous Pizzagate conspiracy, which led to his ouster from the transition team.  It seems the Trump administration would like to make Flynn into an "Ollie North," a lone wolf who pursued these negotiations without any authority from the top.

How much any of this influenced the 2016 elections is anyone's guess, but it certainly casts a cloud not only over the Trump administration but the GOP as a whole.  Reince Priebus, the former Chair of the Republican National Committee, worked hand in hand with Flynn and other officials close to the Trump campaign team throughout the election and was rewarded with the position of Chief of Staff in the Trump White House.

This is particularly worrisome as one of the states that came under intense scrutiny after the election was Wisconsin, where Priebus hails from, as does Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, who is next in line to the President after the Vice-President.  Many of these coordinated Russian-inspired news stories were aimed at Wisconsin voters and other battleground state voters in hopes of turning key state elections in Trump's favor.  There is also the matter of whether the GOP would have sanctioned the tampering  of electronic ballot boxes by a mysterious third party?  After all, they showed no concerns when the Russians hacked the DNC e-mail server, a felony in its own right, passing it off as weak internet security on the part of the Democrats.

The only thing that might save the Trump White House is that the scandal is so murky that Mueller may never get to the bottom of it.  All he can do is work his way around the edges and hope to get persons like Flynn and Papadopoulos to come clean, but I imagine to a certain degree these two fear for their own lives knowing how the Kremlin has dealt with snitches in the past.

In the meantime, Trump and the Republicans will no doubt have another Rose Garden Party to celebrate their tax bill victory.  If the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree is any indication, there won't be much enthusiasm for the event.  This could very well be Trump's first and last Christmas in the White House.  As for the Republicans, many of them are likely to find they no longer have a seat in Congress after the 2018 midterms, given how unpopular this bill is among Americans, as they won't have the luxury of using the Russian political cyber-war tactics so easily this time around.